Tattoos are arguably more popular, and accepted by the general public now than ever before. According to Dave Munro, owner of local tattoo studio Trouble Bound, tattoos are not just for sailors and convicts—who for some reason always seem to be lumped together in the stereotypical-tattooed-person category.
Much of the general public has tattoos. It is not just the younger generations who are enforcing this change. People of all ages and backgrounds are tattooed and interested in the practice. My mom used to hate tattoos. Now she actually likes most of mine and tolerates the rest. She even touched a healing tattoo had a few weeks ago and my mom does not even touch her cat.
Because of the growing acceptance and population of the tattooed community in Newfoundland it only makes sense to host an event that will bring tattooist from all over the country to the province, giving Newfoundland residents a chance to see work and have work done by tattooist that they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet with.
Tattoo Laws in Newfoundland
It may come as a surprise to some that government regulations in the form of laws and written legislation surrounding the tattoo and piercing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is very new, still evolving, and in much of the rest of Atlantic Canada, is virtually nonexistent.
The lack of laws regulating the industry was brought to the attention of the Minister of Health in 2005 after the death of a 16-year-old girl who died due to complications occurring after getting a nipple piercing. Her death was not solely caused by the piercing, however complications arose and the piercing was the last procedure the girl received.
The legislation was initially supposed to come into effect six months after the fatality, but did not actually see the light of day until 2012—catalyzed by a woman who was upset when her underage son came home with an eyebrow piercing, which she did not consent to. She wanted to take legal action against the shop that performed the pierce.
Dave Munro—owner and tattooist at Trouble Bound Studio—has always kept the minimum age to be tattooed at the shop at 18 years old. When the shop performed body piercing, the minimum age was also 18. Munro had wanted legislation in place to govern the industry in NL long before it was set. Munro said, “The worst part [about the lack of laws surrounding the industry] is that when [the topic] comes up again, you just know that another disaster has happened.”
According to Munro, regardless of where the procedure takes place, if something negative happens in the industry, it becomes public knowledge and then reflects negatively on all shops—not just the one responsible.
In 2012, Bill 27—the Personal Service Industry Act—was passed and came into effect. The act—which lumped tattooing, piercing, and tanning salons together—made specifications for some areas, like making the minimum age for tanning to be 19 years. However the minimum age requirements for tattoos and piercings were lumped together.
The act made it so that the legal minimum age for a shop to tattoo or pierce a client without parental consent is now 16 years, however the minimum legal age for a shop to pierce or tattoo a client with parental consent is below 16—with no capping point. Which means that as long as a shop would allow it, a five-year-old child—or one even younger—could be legally tattooed or pierced, as long as the tattooist had the consent of the parent to do so. Primarily, this is so that parents are able to have their child or infant’s ears pierced. However, this opened a much larger window of procedure for underage persons.
‘They did not put a period in the right place…or even the semicolon. Eventually, I think there will be an amendment around [the minimum age to be tattooed/pierced],’ said Munro.
Sean O’Grady, a tattooist who has been working at Studio Maxx since 2005, says that their shop’s minimum age to be tattooed or pierced is 16 without parental consent. However, even though they may be okay within the eyes of law, the shop also sends a letter to the parent of the minor stating and describing the procedure that their child had performed at Studio Maxx. O’Grady also states that they will tattoo persons under the age of 16 with their parent’s consent with some limitations. For instance, certain areas of the body will not be tattooed because the client still has some growing left to do. O’Grady fears that if Studio Maxx turns a client away due to age restrictions, that client is more likely to go get the procedure done elsewhere, potentially in an unsafe environment.
After researching just what the laws surrounding tattoos in Newfoundland entail, I was curious as to just how much the general public of the province knows about them as well. I put together a small online survey in which was completed by 54 people ranging from the age of 16 to 60.
79.6 per cent believed that the legal age to get a tattoo without parental consent is 18 years old, when it was actually 16—but some shops still choose to leave the age at 18.
74 per cent believed that 16 years is the legal age to be tattooed or pierced with parental consent, when in reality—if the shop will allow it—there is no legal age restriction when the client has parental consent.
59.2 per cent of the surveyed people thought that tattooists and piercers have always had the legal right to ask for ID in order to show proof of age of the client. In reality that right was only introduced in 2012 with the new legislation. Prior to this, obtaining client personal information was not a legal right.
The legislation stated that all clients must sign a waiver detailing the procedure and the possible outcomes of the tattoo. After Bill 27, tattooists and piercers are required to explain aftercare procedures for healing, and explain the permanent changes that could occur prior to the procedure. Laws and legislation should not be confused with licensing and training. This is another gray area when it comes to the industry. There is no such thing as a licensed tattooist or piercer in Newfoundland. There are no programs or classes to take in order to get into the profession.
Most tattooists and piercers are subjected to an apprenticeship in which they essentially shadow the other tattooists at the shop in which they initiate. First they learn the office side of the shop, then on to sterilization protocol, safety and sanitization, and eventually become used to using and maintaining the equipment. Munro started his own apprenticeship in the early 90s in Toronto, which lasted approximately six months. O’Grady had his at Studio Maxx in 2005 which lasted a span of approximately eight months.
These two particular shops now continue to train new tattooist through an apprenticeship program. O’Grady says that depending on the time that the tattooist has to dedicate to the career, the process could last anywhere between six months to a year, while Munro says his new tattooists are subject to generally a year-long process before they are able to touch anyone’s skin with a needle.
Since the Personal Service Industry Act has come into effect, it is now required by law for all tattoo shops and piercing shops to be registered with Service NL. The business must also operate out of a permanent structure that meets all needs according to the Health and Safety Act. Dangerous and unsafe conditions to look for in a shop, which offers tattoos or piercings, include having animals present, food or beverages in treatment area, or smoking present. A safe shop should have at least one working autoclave. The artist should have barriers between the equipment and the client—except the disposable needle—as well as between the client and themselves, and look for biohazard waste bins for needle disposal.
If you ever feel like a tattooist is not practicing proper or safe protocol, do not be afraid to ask to see their registration with Service NL. Do not let them tattoo you, and be sure make a complaint to the Department of Health and Safety in order to launch an investigation around the matter. The process should be safe and sanitary for all parties involved.
According to Munro, legislation will not change the opinion of whether or not someone likes tattoos, nor does it say anything about the quality of work a tattooist will provide, but it does provide a blanket form of safety for all persons involved, and it works in favor of the industry.
More information regarding the laws surrounding the tattoo legislation can be found in The Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador 2012 Chapters P – 7.2: An Act to Regulate the Personal Service Industry.
Under My Skin
Tattoo culture seems more popular now than ever before. Tattoos are no longer considered to be exclusive to a specific lifestyle nor do they carry the same stigma or stereotype that they previously might have. That is not to say that some individuals do not stigmatize or stereotype people with tattoos, however the general public now accepts the practice better. My goddaughter is two, and the first complete sentence she uttered was, “Nice tattoos, buddy.” However an individual having tattoos should not be mistaken as an invitation to touch the person, invade their personal space, interrogate, or lecture them about their life choices.
I have twenty-odd tattoos. One of which on the back of my calf says “Tony the Tailor,” written in pins, needles, buttons and other tailoring accessories. Tony the Tailor was my grandfather and I got this tattoo for him when he died four years ago. One day while I was out getting groceries, an older man—around my Pop’s age—came up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted, “Who owns you?” referring to this tattoo. He told me he had seen it on Facebook and had to talk to me. After I managed to restart my heart, I told him that I am Tony Junior’s daughter—and then severely questioned my Facebook privacy settings. I did not know this man, yet in his realm of thought, he was crossing no line by physically grabbing a stranger.
Of my twenty-odd tattoos, many are visible to the public if I am wearing short sleeves or a skirt. I got them for myself, or for my family, friends, other people, things or ideas which I consider important to me—which is why most people get tattoos, for themselves—not to please random strangers who they know nothing about and owe nothing to. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when someone asks me what my tattoos mean or what the significance is. At first, I thought that I must be the only person bothered by questions like these, but after asking other tattooed people who I know, I have learned that there are definitely some individuals who love talking about their tattoos and need little to no persuasion to do so. However the vast majority of people I questioned also felt offended over the way some individuals talked to and treated them based on their tattoos.
As a result of my little survey in addition to my grocery store encounter, I have come to the conclusion that Tattoo Etiquette is something that many people might not even consider to be real. In order to get the ball rolling, I have created a list of behaviours outlining inappropriate behaviour when it comes to someone else’s tattoos.
St. John’s Tattoo Convention
The St. John’s tattoo convention will be the first convention of its kind on the island and will take place over a three-day span at the Bella Vista on Torbay Road. It starts Friday, July 3 and concludes Sunday, July 5, 2015. The event was set into motion by Dave Munro, owner and head tattooist of Trouble Bound Studio, located on Water Street in St. John’s.
It is not uncommon for tattooist to travel outside of their home province or even country to appear as a guest artist in another tattoo shop. In fact, Munro—from Ontario—started traveling to Newfoundland as a guest tattooist at the former tattoo shop Tectonics. Tattoo conventions have been popular throughout the US and most of Canada, and have been gaining popularity in Europe in the last few years as well, however this is the first of its kind in St. John’s. Munro’s idea behind hosting the tattoo convention was to bring a number of tattooists from all over the country to St. John’s in order to introduce our general public to artists they may not have gotten the chance to meet.
Generally, tattooists have their own unique style, talents, and strong points. Thus conventions can be a great way to grant the public access to styles and art forms that they have never seen before, and allows for an individual to hand select the right artist for a specific tattoo idea.
Munro is not a stranger to tattoo conventions. He has traveled to the US, Australia, and across Canada to take part in other tattoo conventions. At one point he was averaging from six to 10 conventions each year. However, since opening Trouble Bound Studios in 2003, running a successful business has become Munro’s top priority. Thus he has not been able to attend as many conventions in the recent years.
Many of Munro’s colleagues throughout the country have expressed interest in coming to Newfoundland through meeting with Munro at other conventions, and talking about where he lives. It is often difficult for tattooists to simply pack up and head to the East Coast, so the St. John’s Tattoo Convention opens more doors for these tattooists, as it is much easier to justify the time and money spent if the tattooist can incorporate their work into the trip.
Thirty-nine tattooists will travel from all across Canada, and one will venture from the US, to participate in the convention. Each tattooist will be set up in their own booth and will have a layout of their work and perhaps artwork or merchandise for sale. The tattooists will be tattooing clients at the convention, and all precautions have been taken to ensure a clean, sterile environment so as to protect the health and safety of both the clients and the artists alike.
If a member of the public is interested in getting tattooed at the convention, Munro advises to contact the tattooist prior to the convention. Each tattooist will be operating their own appointments so scheduling, pricing, and style could vary from one tattooist to another.
Munro started preparing for the convention over a year ago. He was essentially traveling through uncharted territory since St. John’s has never hosted a convention of the sort before. He had to find a location that was both suitable as well as accepting to event, and also had to ensure that everything associated with the convention was up to par in regards to legislation and government standards. This was not very difficult as many of the tattooists participating are already working under existing codes of conduct and existing legislation from their own provinces.
The feedback from the general public is positive says Munro.
“There is a lot of educating about what a tattoo convention is, and we are also learning a lot about the process too.”
Much of the initial grunt work has now been taken care of in regards to future tattoo conventions in St. John’s. Munro hopes with any luck, this year’s convention will lead to a much larger convention next year.
Admission is $10 per day at the door for adults. Kids 14 and under can gain free access to all daytime events. Stanley’s Pub will be hosting shows on Friday and Saturday night after the convention which will include live music and a performance by The Island Belles on Friday evening. All events at Stanley’s pub are 19+.
More information regarding the convention, as well as the traveling tattooists and their contact information can be found at www.stjohnstattooconvention.com.